The Runner’s Staff Picks

2017 was full of fantastic arts and culture—here’s what stood out to us this year

(Nicola Kwit)

Video Game of the Year: Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
By Melanie Tan, Production Manager

I’m sure you’re confused as to why my game of the year isn’t Super Mario: Odyssey or Nier: Automata. While games like The Breath of the Wild threw me on a hang glider and swept me off my feet (or locked in my bedroom for a few days), the Zero Escape trilogy still gives me chills, months after playing it.

The first two games in the Zero Escape trilogy were finally updated and ported to the PC during March of this year: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999), and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. The third game, Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, was originally released on PC during 2016. The games are a visual-novel and puzzle game, with each one featuring a new twisted tale of survival full of different paths to take and various endings to get.

While they were originally released on the Nintendo DS platform starting in 2009, the bundle updated and ported the games to PC this year. So now I get to gush about it and try to convince some of you to play this game because you’re either a fanatic of the series or you’ve never heard of it.

The Zero Escape trilogy easily made its way into my personal top games of all time, and it’s an easy recommendation I’d give to anyone who likes puzzle games or rich storytelling.

Television Series of the Year: The Exorcist: Season 2
By Joseph Keller, Staff Writer

Here’s one that’s flown under the radars of far too many horror lovers. After decades of god-awful sequels and prequels attempting to cash in on William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic, viewers could be forgiven for not paying much attention to Fox’s effort to revitalize The Exorcist on the small screen. This is a shame because The Exorcist, with its excellent use of atmosphere and pacing to create legitimate scares and an engaging story, is easily the best horror television show of 2017.

The show’s first season, which premiered in 2016, did a great job of resurrecting the mythology of the original film and novel, and retained a setting and tone highly reminiscent of the source material. While The Exorcist’s debut season was great, season two became something truly special by taking the time to slow down and flesh out its characters.

The mentor-student dynamic between the show’s two exorcists—the world-weary and PTSD-afflicted Father Markus (Ben Daniels) and the young and idealistic Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera)—forms the heart of the series. The second season introduces us to the kind-hearted Andrew Kim (John Cho) and his family of foster children, and lets the viewer see and understand the relationship between these characters. Making them feel like real people is The Exorcist’s greatest strength, due to the very real sense of dread that ensues when otherworldly darkness inevitably falls upon them.

Low viewership and Disney’s acquisition of Fox have put the future of this series in serious peril, but for a legitimately creepy expansion on a horror classic with heart, The Exorcist is definitely one to check out in 2018.

Tech of the Year: OpenAI
By Mel Pomerleau, Web Editor

From self-driving cars to face-detection software, and a whole slew of virtual and augmented reality games, consoles, and applications in between, there have been some pretty remarkable technological advances made over the past year. But what impresses me the most is OpenAI’s bot—which destroyed the world’s top Dota 2 players in 1v1 matches—and what this advancement means for the future of artificial intelligence.

For those unfamiliar with Dota 2, some key aspects to excel in-game include using a strong sense of gameplay and intuition in order to best your opponent. In other words, it’s very much a mind game. The bot is given simple instructions; taking damage is bad and getting kills is good. From there it learns optimal strategies and, within two weeks, is able to defeat professional players who typically have accumulated over 12,000 hours of gameplay.

OpenAI, co-founded two years ago by Elon Musk, is a non-profit research company that develops open source tools for advancing artificial intelligence technologies. It’s easy to see why a highly intelligent bot from OpenAI could stand as the tech company of the year.

Team of the Year: The Vancouver Whitecaps
By Ashley Hyshka, Community Reporter

The story of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2017 season began on March 5 against Philadelphia Union, a match which ended in a draw. The team spent the next six months chasing redemption following a dismal 2016 season, their efforts eventually culminating in a bitter loss against the Seattle Sounders on Nov. 2, decimating their chances of winning the MLS Cup.

But their loses aren’t what should be remembered from the Whitecaps’ 2017 season—what we should remember is the team’s story.

The Vancouver Whitecaps are my team of the year for 2017 because, game after game, they filled BC Place with tens of thousands of screaming spectators, providing an energetic atmosphere for seasoned supporters and new fans alike. While the crowd shouted, “You fat bastard!” and “Wanker!” at opposing teams, they also emphatically cheered for Whitecaps players like Waston, Montero, Reyna, and Ousted. They became our heroes.

On Oct. 25, the Whitecaps defeated the San Jose Earthquakes in a high-stakes 5-0 match. The game was memorable because, for the first time in history, the Whitecaps made the playoffs and secured a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals. On that day, over 21,000 cheering and drunken fans crowded into BC Place, reinforcing the growing popularity of soccer in North America.

Maybe they weren’t crowned the champions of the 2017 MLS season (that title went to Toronto FC), but the Whitecaps made me damn proud to be a part of this city.

Podcast of the Year: Canadaland
By Braden Klassen, Photo Editor

Do you live in Canada?

Do you like news?

Do you have functioning ears?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then you should probably check out Canadaland.

The weekly news podcast, hosted by prominent Canadian journalist and media critic Jesse Brown, generally runs for about 30 to 50 minutes and presents a nicely-condensed summary of Canadian news with running commentary from Brown and a guest often involved in national media.

Guests in 2017 have included journalists who worked for or are currently working for mainstream Canadian publications like the CBC, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Toronto Star, but Canadaland has also hosted writers associated with more alternative publications like Jezebel, The Intercept, The Body Politic, and PressProgress.

2017 was a hell of a year for news media in North America, so it’s nice to be able to sit back and listen to something relatively sane and informative, but not overly serious.

If you’re a news junkie who’s looking for some compelling and entertaining analysis/criticism of the all-too-overlooked Canadian news media landscape, then this is the podcast for you. If you’re a politics nerd who doesn’t always have the hours to spare to watch CPAC or Power & Politics, this is the podcast for you. If you’re someone who wants a program less stuffy than the pundits at The Globe or NatPo and less satirical than Rick Mercer or Feschuk, this is the podcast for you.

And if you want to sound well-informed at the dinner table when the conversation takes that inevitable turn towards politics and current events, check out Canadaland. It’s great.

Album of the Year: The Magnetic Fields’ 50 Song Memoir
By Connor Doyle, Managing Editor

For the last 25 years, Stephen Merritt has been one of the most prolific songwriters in popular music. With his primary band, The Magnetic Fields, he has recorded 11 full-length albums, including the towering 69 Love Songs. On top of that, he’s released nearly a dozen records from his three side-projects—The Gothic Archies, The 6ths, and Future Bible Heroes—as well as a handful of albums and soundtracks under his own name.

Considering the breadth of his songwriting, you’d think there was very little in his life that Merritt had left unexamined. But up until 2017, there was one subject he had almost never written about: himself.

In March, The Magnetic Fields released 50 Song Memoir, which, as the name implies, features 50 tracks—one for every year that Stephen Merritt has been alive. From album-opener “’66: Wonder Where I’m From” to closing-track “’15: Somebody’s Fetish”, Merritt explores a different aspect of his life in his trademark saccharine, maudlin, self-deprecating style.

At three years old, Merritt was hated by his family cat, Dionysus, who lends his name to one of the album’s early stand-outs. At 21, he failed a college-level Ethics class due to a personality conflict with his professor, inspiring him to pen a synth-heavy confessional that channels the music of his young adulthood in the 80s. Deep into the album, we hear about 38-year-old Merritt’s tryst with a former lover in the form of a mandolin-driven balled that showcases the author’s love of wordplay and internal rhyme.

There has never been an autobiography quite like 50 Song Memoir, just as there has never been a lyricist quite like Stephen Merritt. The album is a masterful retrospective of his life and his music, and is a landmark record for 2017.

Artist of the Year: Savichan from Parlor Eleven
By Nicole Kwit, Art Director

When you talk about art, people usually think about the usual suspects: paintings, sculpture, maybe an animated film they adore. Generally, people don’t connect the word “art” with tattoos, but I do, so I am sharing my favorite local tattoo artist: Savichan. This girl’s work is insane, especially since she is still an apprentice, but her skills seem like that of a full-fledged tattoo artist.

It was important to me to share a local tattoo artist and one that hasn’t been hanging out in Vancouver for the past 10 years or showed up on a season of Inkmasters. Savichan is based in Mission at Parlor Eleven, and I have been stalking her social media and work for a good year now.

Her lines are amazing, and her style is what really caught my eye—a stunning combination of illustration and realism that has me saving whatever money I can to go get a piece done by her. If you’re interested in seeing her work, you can check out her addictive Instagram @savichan.
If you’re interested in getting a tattoo done, or just down to check out local tattoo artists and drool over their talent, hers is not to be missed!

Journalism of the Year: Mother Jones
By Aly Laube, Coordinating Editor

Mother Jones is a non-profit publication that reliably cranks out breathtakingly fearless journalism designed for North American readers. It covers uniquely hard-hitting stories relevant to anyone invested in global news and politics, and is responsible for some of the most in-depth and specific modern investigations that I have ever read in print or on screen.

The Mother Jones team is especially adept in one niche area: creating fact-packed, long-form works of investigative journalism that are shocking, beautiful, and often tragic. Its writers, editors, photographers, and videographers know how to pull you in and work your heart strings to keep you invested, but not by using cheap tricks. Every first-hand account came from documented interactions, and every statistic is backed up and believable. As readers, it’s easy and worthwhile to trust them and their articles.

If you’re interested in getting an insider’s perspective of life as a guard in a high security prison, or as one of the many users or cops involved in the opioid crises around the world, or even in the day-to-day of farmers struggling to maintain their safety and way of life under corrupt governments, Mother Jones is for you. They’re asking for donations to their December pledge this month, and those interested in helping should consider sending a few dollars to the people who work hard to keep us informed and to keep North American news strong, especially in today’s political climate.

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